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Software for new translation agency, suggestions?
Thread poster: Catarina Aleixo
Catarina Aleixo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 06:05
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
Jul 18, 2008

Hello everybody,

I am in the process of setting up a new translation agency in Portugal. As a freelancer I have used Trados etc for my translations, but am in a quandry as to what is best for the purposes of an agency. Should I use synergy for project management? What about invoicing software and methods of keeping track of payments to freelance suppliers etc? If anyone has godd, tried and tested, solutions I would appreciate your help. Also if you can suggest anything I may have overlooked that would be excellent, too. Thanks!


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:05
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Who will be your customers? Jul 18, 2008

Do you expect to have MLVs as your customers or just direct-customer work?

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Catarina Aleixo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 06:05
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Direct customers Jul 18, 2008

Hi Tomás, thanks for the reply. We will have direct customers mainly.

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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:05
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Go for whatever you feel more comfortable with Jul 18, 2008

Hello again. If I was in your situation:

1. I would go for Trados initially since it is probably more widespread among full-time professional translators. Wordfast claims to have 13.000 active users, while SDL claims to have 170.000 users of their TM systems, probably 80% of which use Trados. Also, Trados is in use in the EU institutions and big companies. On top of that, you have been a user of Trados and you are comfortable with the tool. If you are several people working simultaneously in projects, remember that you might want to use the professional version just to be able to work on the same memory at the same time.

2. I would NOT keep the door closed to wonderful translators out there who don't use Trados or don't want to use a translation memory tool. You might even want to take a crash course on other tools, like Wordfast, Deja Vu, Metatexis... Licenses are not expensive if you happen to need a very good translator who does not use Trados specifically but can use exports of Trados memories.

3. I would not use Synergy as not everybody will have the same version of Trados and you might run into trouble trying to send the jobs out to the translators. Keep your options open.

4. I would take an advanced course on fields and translation memory maintenance, just so that you can better design your translation memory strategy for customers with multilingual, repetitive jobs.

As we are not an agency I cannot think of anything else right now...


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Ivana Friis Wilson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:05
Member (2008)
English to Danish
+ ...
Please don't use Trados Jul 18, 2008

I urge you to do the right thing and let the translator decide what CAT tool if any should be used. I find it very rude that agencies stipulate what CAT tool to use. I know that many agencies insist, but I refuse to buy Trados and I tell all my clients that it will never happen.

If you want a translator to give a repetition match discount - use the same translator for the same client.

Let the translator decide how to work - they will be gratefull and loyal.

Good luck!


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:05
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Freedom of options Jul 19, 2008

I think that, unless all your customers are large companies who have a lot of repetitive materials, there is no urgency in enforcing Trados or any other TM tool in the line. I quote myself:

2. I would NOT keep the door closed to wonderful translators out there who don't use Trados or don't want to use a translation memory tool.


You want your main goal to be quality, and when choosing a translator, quality must weigh a lot more than the use of a TM tool, in my opinion. However, to me if I were in your situation, the ability to use a TM tool would be an advantage in a translator's CV.

I am curious about your decision Catarina. Why did you decide to become an agency?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:05
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Fully agree! Jul 19, 2008

Ivana Friis Wilson wrote:
I urge you to do the right thing and let the translator decide what CAT tool if any should be used. I find it very rude that agencies stipulate what CAT tool to use. I know that many agencies insist, but I refuse to buy Trados and I tell all my clients that it will never happen.

If you want a translator to give a repetition match discount - use the same translator for the same client.

Let the translator decide how to work - they will be gratefull and loyal.


Precisely, Ivana!

When you hail a taxicab, do you check the car brand? In some countries you may have varied car sizes and volume issues, either luggage-related or your own. But I guess nobody checks the vehicle manufacturer; all they want is to be safely and promptly taken to their destination. This will be mostly up to the driver.

If it's all about discounts for fuzzy matches, I hope that the more expensive CAT tools can also - like WordFast - analyze a text for them before translation. This will enable you to compare the whole cost of the translation by, e.g. translator A who charges high rates but gives generous discounts on matches, and B who charges a lower flat rate but gives no discount on matches. This is what really matters. What's the point in paying more overall, just because someone does give discounts on matches?

However IMHO the most important issue is not going overboard with "software for translation agencies".

In the best translation agencies I work for, people contact me via e-mail, Skype, even long-distance phone. They also respond quickly to any questions or issues I raise.

In some of the worst ones, not in reputation or any business practice, but the worst to work with, their system sends me an e-mail to a link where I'm expected to click yes/no. If I click on 'yes', I'm then expected to rummage their whole FTP site, sort out what's the job to be done and what's reference material etc. etc. They never answer any e-mails.

So keep it human for effectiveness, and use software to leverage efficiency.


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:05
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Look from the agency's perspective... Jul 19, 2008


When you hail a taxicab, do you check the car brand? In some countries you may have varied car sizes and volume issues, either luggage-related or your own. But I guess nobody checks the vehicle manufacturer; all they want is to be safely and promptly taken to their destination. This will be mostly up to the driver.


However, when you establish a taxicab company, do you buy a large fleet of identical vehicles, or let each driver choose their own? Of course, the latter situation is more comfortable for the drivers, but the first solution has great advantages for the company - lower service costs, discounts at purchase, etc.

Also, let's not confuse the selection of the CAT system the agency uses for its content management and the tools its translators use - of course it is easiest if they are the same, but with just a little effort from the agency they don't have to be.

Proposing that you do not use any TM system is not very reasonable, as it would clearly put you at a disadvantage compared to other agencies. I am not only talking about discounts here (although your competitors probably will apply some), but about consistency - translators move, get ill, have other jobs and your client will expect future translations to be consistent with the previous ones.

Of course, if the agency is small, it might get away with just keeping all the two-language file pairs in their archives, as it was done in the past. In fact, investing in a agency-level software package (remember that they cost much more than freelance versions) might not be viable from the business point of view. It might be more effective to introduce the system when the time seems right and align those files which need to be reused. But this all depends on the size of the company, types of most frequent jobs, awareness of CAT tools among clients, etc.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:05
English to Portuguese
+ ...
You overlooked a couple of points, Jabberwock Jul 19, 2008

Jabberwock wrote:
However, when you establish a taxicab company, do you buy a large fleet of identical vehicles, or let each driver choose their own? Of course, the latter situation is more comfortable for the drivers, but the first solution has great advantages for the company - lower service costs, discounts at purchase, etc.


This is not outsourced work. I'm considering independent operators.

If an agency would tell all its translators: We'll have delivered and installed at your location one Dell computer with Windows, software A, B, and C, and Trados. You'll be working/available for us X hours per week, and we'll pay you $ Y per month. You are expected to deliver at least Z (production) unless unmitigating circumstances now and then prevent you from doing so.

That's a fleet!

On the other hand, if you hire an interpreter in Sao Paulo to take his own car, pick up Mr. U. S. Bigshot at the airport, drive him to a meeting at ACME to do the interpreting job, and then drop him at a specific hotel, nobody should have any ideas on why an EN-PT interpreter drives a FR-made Citroën, and not a Chevy.

Also, let's not confuse the selection of the CAT system the agency uses for its content management and the tools its translators use - of course it is easiest if they are the same, but with just a little effort from the agency they don't have to be.

Proposing that you do not use any TM system is not very reasonable, as it would clearly put you at a disadvantage compared to other agencies. I am not only talking about discounts here (although your competitors probably will apply some), but about consistency - translators move, get ill, have other jobs and your client will expect future translations to be consistent with the previous ones.


All this assumes a lifetime relationship between certain end-clients and a translation agency for a continuous, never-ending stream of similar translations. Applying Pareto's law, these account for 80% of the volume, and 20% of the jobs. Likewise, they represent 80% of the income, but only 20% of the net profit.

So it's a matter of establishing the mission and vision of an agency before deciding upon any mandatory m.o. for its independent vendors.


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:05
Member (2004)
English to Polish
It's all about money... Jul 19, 2008

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

On the other hand, if you hire an interpreter in Sao Paulo to take his own car, pick up Mr. U. S. Bigshot at the airport, drive him to a meeting at ACME to do the interpreting job, and then drop him at a specific hotel, nobody should have any ideas on why an EN-PT interpreter drives a FR-made Citroën, and not a Chevy.



I'm not talking about economic freedom of the freelancers, I'm talking about economic efficiency of the agency. You're obviously assuming that it does not matter (financially) how the job is done by the translator, which is simply not true. Handling content from several different CAT tools does require more time and effort than using standard procedures for everyone (just like with the taxicab fleet). In business time is money, which means that the total operating costs would be higher. This, in turn, would require applying higher margin, which means less money for the translator.

Business is supposed to be profitable, therefore the "right thing" to do is look at your prospective clients and the jobs they require, talk with your translators about their needs and decide whether you need to streamline everything into one software system or whether sending translators just the source files and getting the translation back to the clients is enough.

Having said all the above, I still believe that a translation agency has two main assets - translators and clients.

I am sorry, Catarina, if we have hijacked your topic - you know how those discussions go. I hope I can make up for this pointing to you two tools for project management, directed at agency level. I have not used them myself, though, maybe someone else can review them for you.

One is Projectex, from the company that provides Translation Office 3000:

http://www.projetex.com/

Another is project-open (with some modules prepared specifically for translation agencies):

http://www.project-open.com/


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:05
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
People and not software for jobs Jul 20, 2008

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
In the best translation agencies I work for, people contact me via e-mail, Skype, even long-distance phone. They also respond quickly to any questions or issues I raise.


Entirely agree, and also my case. I tend to dislike an automatic system as there is always something to ask. I reckon companies using PM systems are far too confident about the software and lack the people required to properly manage translator queries and clarification before the actual work starts. It's not as simple as clicking "Yes, thanks" o "No, thanks".


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:05
English to Russian
+ ...
quickbooks Jul 20, 2008

I would recommend this package to everyone starting his/her own business.
The program is very good in tracking projects and money.

Don't forget - starting an agency is the financial enterprise first thing.

[Edited at 2008-07-20 06:50]


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Catarina Aleixo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 06:05
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Lively discussion - I do not intend to cut out people skills! Jul 20, 2008

Hi everyone, I'm glad this has led to such lively discussion, but if I may I would like to bring you all back to my question

I have been a freelancer for over 15 years now and fully understand evryone's concerns about project management tools and teh lack of a person to deal with directly.

My question is not so much how to get rid of people from the equation, but rather how to actually find a tool that from an agency point of view makes sure I am able to know who I have assigned jobs to, at what rates and deadlines etc and which reminds me to pay them and send the job on to the customer. I in no way want to remove a personal contact with translators as I know, from personal experience, how valuable that is.

I already know I will be working with Trados (and by extension Wordfast as this is compatible), and was considering synergy (although given your comments am likely to "unconsider it"). I want to manage my own translation memories and so don't want any compatibility issues with other software. I am not going to rule out translators without CAT tools, particularly if they have special expertise in a certain area and because I can manage repetitions for them, if necessary. I'm sorry to those of you who are not Trados/Wordfast users but as I am an agency and not a direct customer I have to make a choice. To stretch the taxi metaphor a little further, imagine someone has pre-paid for taxi rides with a particular company at a discounted rate: they will choose that company ahead of any other before resorting to using a service that will be more costly... and we are talking about extra time here (and therefore money).

What I really need help with is names of specific tools (PM, billing etc) that can be used and the functions they have.
Thanks again everyone!


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Marina Soldati  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 02:05
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Have a look at this thread Jul 20, 2008

Hi Catarina,

If you are looking for a mangement software, have a look at this thread. The software discussed here may be what you are looking for:

http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/97319-free_translation_project_mgmt_and_financial_software.html

Regards,
Marina


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:05
English to Russian
+ ...
it seems too easy but... Jul 21, 2008

Catarina Aleixo wrote:

... but rather how to actually find a tool that from an agency point of view makes sure I am able to know who I have assigned jobs to, at what rates and deadlines etc and which reminds me to pay them and send the job on to the customer.
...


You can find it here - http://quickbooks.intuit.co.uk/

Don't forget, in Europe you need to use the European version of the software and not the American one.

Sometimes in addition to tracking expenses related with translation a manager must track other expenses like utility bills, business cards printing, rent, etc.

QB allows the owner of an agency to do this in one package thus giving a clear overall picture of the agency financial standing.

[Edited at 2008-07-21 06:34]


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